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May 18, 2014 8:27 PM by Aja Goare - Q2 News

Billings woman experiences success as first patient in trial cancer treatment

BILLINGS - The cure for cancer is something doctors and scientists have searched for, for years.

Though there's no proven cure, a new trial treatment is giving hope to one woman, right here in Billings.

"Four and a half years ago I was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, which is the cancer of the bile ducts," said Melinda Bachini. "It's very rare and there is no proven treatment for it right now. So I knew at the time we'd have to find something experimental and new if we wanted to beat it."

So she began her search online.

"I stumbled across it on the computer, I can't even tell you how. I clicked on it and it was like boom - it was there," she said. "And just reading it, I was convinced from that moment that this is what I want to do."

It was a last click effort to end the battle that she just couldn't stand to fight any more.

"At the beginning of 2012, I was just about ready to be done with chemo and have better quality of life than quantity, and I came across the clinical trial at the institute of health in bethesda, MD."

It was a trial with no previous patients and no proof of success - a true experiment.

"i'm listed as patient 3737, but I've never felt like a number."

Number 3737 in a journal of science, but a living, breathing mother of six in real life, who can do a much better job at explaining the treatment than 10 syllable words on in a journal.

"To me this is the simple way of saying it," she began. "They found a specific T-cell that reacts to that specific mutation in my cancer and grew specifically that one for a month, they put billions of them back in me."

Billions of her own T-cells are diminishing the tumors day by day. The battle's not over, but the building blocks for survival both for Melinda and others with cancer are there.

"They made a blue print with me so that's where they've started, so I'm the first but I hope I'm the first of many."

Now, because there's no way of knowing if this form of immunotherapy treatment will work the same for every patient and all cancers.

The trials are still in the early stages, but for Melinda the tumors are shrinking.

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